Focus on movement and mechanics in latest exhibition at Backspace

Moving sculptures: Curator Kiri Smart with some of the works on display at her exhibition Momentum: Kinetic-Robotic-Mechanic. Picture: Kate Healy.
Moving sculptures: Curator Kiri Smart with some of the works on display at her exhibition Momentum: Kinetic-Robotic-Mechanic. Picture: Kate Healy.

The latest exhibition at the Backspace Gallery in Camp Street emphasises the role of interactivity and playfulness in modern sculpture.

Momentum: Kinetic-Robotic-Mechanic features the work of artists Ismiadi, Trefor Prest, Christopher Pendlebury, Cake Industries, Alex Sanson and Cameron Ross.

It’s an exhibition that displays not only artistic exploration but also great engineering and technical skill in making steel, wood, canvas and even feathers move by power at the slightest touch 

Curator and sculptor Kiri Smart says the theme of the show is addressing movement and memory. She says the artists on show share a common fascination with all things mechanical and the actual process of making art.

“The artists I chose all make sculpture that moves either kinetically, robotically or mechanically, and while they present completely different results, they all have that magical ability to make something which is in fact extremely complex technical and complicated, look light and almost effortless,” says Ms Smart.

The curator says, when presented with the opportunity to curate a show at the gallery, she took some time to think about her own work, what sort of art she personally enjoyed and what art she would like to share.

Kinetic: artist Cameron Ross installing one of his sculptures at the Backspace exhibition. Picture: Kate Healy.

Kinetic: artist Cameron Ross installing one of his sculptures at the Backspace exhibition. Picture: Kate Healy.

“Being a gallery run by the City of Ballarat to support artists in the region, and encourage the community to participate and enjoy their own vibrant art scene, I wanted to create a fun show that would appeal to a wide variety of the general public.

“I have always had a fascination with automatons. In centuries long past, these ‘living’ machines must have appeared to be truly magic. When I thought about each of the artists I approached to be a part of the exhibition, I realised that not only do I admire their work, but I get truly excited to see their work in exhibitions, to see how it moves, to see how it works, to see how it’s made.”

Kiri Smart speaks to The Courier.

Whose works have you've got on display? 

“We're standing in front of an Alex Sanson here; we have Christopher Pendlebury; Ismeadi; Trevor Prest; Cameron Ross and Cake Industries.”

They are really complex, aren't they? They are quite intricate in the way that they work. 

“We've chosen the sculptures partially because they move; partially because they have an unbelievable eye for detail. And quite a sense of humour about them.”

They're quite funny some of them, these ones over here that are all brass and metal. They're quite skeletal, but they're also quite funny looking. 

“They quite possibly came off a Jules Verne submarine.” 

They're a little bit 'steampunk'. 

“Well I have never asked Trefor (Prest) how he feels about that term, but I suspect he actually created it before anyone had ever heard of it. He's a Welsh sculptor who's been living in Australia for about the last 30 odd years. Yes. Do read the bio on his website, it's hilarious.”

Momentum exhibition

Tell me a bit about this work behind us here, which is this rabbit running; Run Rabbit Run it's called.

“So this is Christopher Peter Pendlebury. Well known to Ballarat; taught at the uni for some years; has worked with Stelarc, NASA, all sorts of things; is a fairly reclusive sculptor that lives in his workshop just about- he does have a house- and makes unbelievably fun sculpture, complicated but fun; well known for great appeal to children.”

That's the kind of thing that when we talked in that it's the kind of sculptures that would get children talking about art: they're humorous and vibrant and they're active.

“Yes, and beautifully made which I guess the best toys really always are So that was the main influence for the exhibition. I thought about range of different things when Deb asked me to curate a show. And then I thought about my work I thought about what really inspires me in my sculpture practice, which is quite often inspired by older toys.

“These people are kind of craftsmen that I would like to be with my own work. So it was exciting. The gallery's here for the public. The City of Ballarat are generous with the space which has been here for five years now; there's no charge to the artists.

“I wanted to create a show that would appeal to all sectors of the community whether they consider themselves art lovers or not. things that. You don't need to know anything about art to come in and look at something that is physically there, it's moving, there's lights, it's beautifully made. That's what we're creating.”

Momentum: Kinetic-Robotic-Mechanic opens on May 5. The evening’s entertainment will continue the theme with ‘living sculpture’ Uptown Brown performing with his steampunk-inspired one-man-band machine.

Curator Kiri Smart moved to Ballarat to complete a sculpture degree with Peter Blizzard and Adrian Mauriks in the mid 90s. Since then she has opened a small private gallery called Anachronism, coordinated the program at Grainery Lane Theatre & Gallery, curating over 200 exhibitions over 10 years and is currently working at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. She is a current board member of both Ballarat Arts Alive and the Ballarat Arts Foundation.

The Backspace Gallery is open Thursday – Sunday from 12-4pm. Entry is free and 10% of sales will be donated to the Ballarat Arts Foundation (BAF) to support their grants program for emerging artists.